Followup to this…the two that look especially interesting to me:
Here's a distribution with something truly innovative. Like Linux From Scratch (LFS), Gentoo is a “from source” distribution (although it's a bit of stretch to call LFS a “distribution” as such), but it takes the idea a step further and bundles it up nicely. Gentoo's most “hard core” installation option, called “Stage 1”, involves starting with a very basic Linux boot disc, then customizing the install very specifically to your tastes, after which the ENTIRE installation is built from source on your machine. There are other options which require less compilation and allow for a quicker set up. But Gentoo's other neat feature is called Portage; a BSD-style ports database coupled with an unusual tool called emerge that will fetch the software package you want and install it on your system…again compiling from scratch based on your preferences.
The result is an install that is generally VERY fast (because it's highly optimized for your hardware) and an update mechanism that is well coordinated and intelligent and avoids many of the pitfalls of the RedHat RPM system. The downside, of course, is that the initial install can be mind-numbingly time consuming, but I understand the payoff is significant in terms of speed.
Gentoo also boasts one of the most inclusive and helpful communities of users out there. While many other distributions are rife with RTFMers in their “support” forums, Gentoo seems to have an eager, devoted, knowledgeable community that is willing and able to HELP (even if sometimes they do suggest that you read the docs).
Linux Journal's Reader's Choice Linux distribution. This one is, apparently, very server oriented and, therefore, highly optimized. Not necessarily pretty (which I don't care about, since the machines I will install on are command-line-only), Debian boasts what appears to be the best update utility going: apt. In fact, I was considering implementing apt on my RedHat boxes when RedHat announced its imminent departure from the low end of the market, so Debian looks like a promising replacement. Seems like Debian would also be more “generally” supported than Gentoo, although I understand that Gentoo is fast becoming the distribution of choice for performance-hungry users.
Not sure where I'll end up; I'm installing both on test machines. Seems likely that I'll wind up using Gentoo on a desktop workstation (I'll finally start using Linux on the desktop, at least in a limited capacity), and Debian on my servers.